Insurance companies collect hidden fees while patients receive unexpected bills

Patti Sietz-Honig, a video editor at Fox 5 in New York, filed a complaint in 2022. The cost of seeing a specialist for chronic back pain had skyrocketed, and she faced about $60,000 in bills.

Ms. Sietz-Honig pressed for updates on her complaint and submitted articles critical of MultiPlan from Capitol Forum, a site focused on antitrust and regulatory news. Last March, the agency sent her an email informing her that her employer and her insurer, Aetna, had agreed to a “temporary exception” and made additional payments.

“Unfortunately,” the agency writes, the law “does not prohibit the use of third-party vendors” to calculate payments.

Meanwhile, her longtime pain specialist began requiring advance payment. To save money, Ms. Sietz-Honig spaced out her appointments.

“I've been in a lot of pain lately,” she said, “so I went and paid.”

As MultiPlan integrated deeply with major insurers, it launched new tools and techniques that produced even higher rates and, in some cases, told insurers what unnamed competitors were doing, documents and interviews show.

After meeting with a MultiPlan executive in 2019, a UnitedHealthcare senior vice president wrote in an internal email that other insurers were using MultiPlan's aggressive pricing options more broadly and that UnitedHealthcare could catch up.

“Dale didn't specifically name the contestants, but from what he said we were able to figure out who was who,” wrote the executive, Lisa McDonnel, referring to Dale White, then MultiPlan's executive vice president. You described how Cigna, Aetna and some Blue Cross Blue Shield plans apparently used MultiPlan.

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